Thursday, May 03, 2018
By the time I had completed the sabbatical referred to in the previous post I was acutely aware that I really wanted to be some place other than New Zealand. And I am sure that at some point in their lives a very sizable proportion of people arrive at the same idea: they would like a chance to live in another land. Moving as I did to Australia for a few years -- until a laughable work situation made fleeing not just a good idea but an absolute necessity -- doesn't count because New Zealanders at that time got Australian residence pretty much automatically: a reciprocal arrangement between the two countries.
But when we decided to head for Mexico we were faced with the need to apply for residency. There was no assurance of getting it, not least because the only work we had at the time was some contract research student supervision kindly organised for us by Chris Bigum out of Central Queensland University. We would have struggled to meet the economic requirements for entry on the small amount of 'wealth' we possessed at the time, and we had no job in Mexico. Eventually,we found an immigration lawyer, who has become a lifetime friend, and thanks to having published a few books we managed to get a toehold. An FM 3. And after several years more an FM2. And, for me, finally, my treasured permanent residency card.
I simply cannot envisage ever wanting to leave Mexico, and I hope I never have to. This is the first sense of home I have ever experienced at the kind of level that makes it feel like a real privilege to be able to pay taxes in return for the right to live in the country! I simply love living in Mexico, and I love being a permanent Mexican resident. It took ten years and a lot of running around on hot days, but I treasure my Mexican residency with a passion and a sense of pride that goes beyond words.
A couple of days ago, in the company of some very dear Mexican friends, I found myself in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park for the first time. Right on the border with Guatemala. I had no idea upon arriving at the first lake on the guided tour that the border was there. The guide just pointed to some stairs and said "the first lake we will be seeing today is at the top of these stairs, so let's walk up there and take a look".
We got up to Laguna Internacional and all of a sudden I saw a sign:
Analogue cooking: with apologies to vegetarians
The rope pump took off on a major scale.
Jan tried to push the solar oven as a low cost technology to alleviate the health risks for women of cooking by fire in smoky kitchens as well as on the obvious ecological grounds. In the area where I was living the landscape was largely denuded of trees, which went for firewood and for making carbon. The solar oven was as unsuccessful as the rope pump was successful. During the 18 months I spent in that area I tried several times to encourage the men working in broom and mop and rope pump production to work with me and complete te oven, and give it a road test. The response was always the same: there's no point, no one will use it.
I vowed to myself that one day I would build and use a solar oven, but the other things in life -- especially writing -- always seemed to get in the way.
Until a couple of weeks ago, when I had finished off most of the work I've been doing to create a small garden and some serious living and hobbying space on the roof. Since the roof was the most obvious place to get maximum sun, getting the most of the work completed meant there was every incentive to finally see if solar cooking on the roof might be a viable proposition.
I found the version I wanted to start with and set about finding the materials -- including getting sheets of 2cm thick polystyrene from a nearby stationery shop.
This morning I got the oven finished, as near as I could manage to the specs of the plan I had used. It was a most enjoyable building task, and the local supermarket had the kind of black enamel pot recommended for cooking.
Thursday, February 08, 2018
Remembering John Perry Barlow
Chris Bigum pointed Michele and me to Barlow's 1995 interview with Nat Tunbridge in Australian Personal Computer when we were all working together on the idea of mindsets in relation to the uptake of new technologies in education. In this interview Barlow makes what we believe to be the original reference to a distinction between "natives" and "immigrants" with respect to understanding the internet and life online. [Prefiguring Justin Trudeau, Chris and Michele and I opted for "insiders" and "newcomers" in place of "natives" and "immigrants" as ways to distinguish the mindsets; but the distinction itself was pure Barlow.] Barlow was arguing that to think about virtual space/internet space/information space in the ways we have become accustomed to thinking about physical space is a fundamental misconception.
If what Barlow was arguing back then, almost 25 years ago, is a little better and a little more widely understood today than it was then, it is nonetheless still inadequately understood and applied within such important spheres as law, commerce and education. For the sake of posterity, and for expressing our appreciation of John Perry Barlow and our sense of loss at his passing, we will recall here a couple of gems from 1995.
Within the paradigm of physical or material space, said Barlow, controlled economics increases value by regulating scarcity. In the economy of virtual space, however, the opposite holds. To quote Barlow, with information it is familiarity, not scarcity, that has value. With information, "it's dispersion that has the value, and it's not a commodity it's a relationship and, as in any relationship, the more that's going back and forth the higher the value of the relationship".
He said that several years before talk of "relationship technologies" got any traction.
And with respect to pornography on the internet, a hot topic in 1995, Barlow simply rejected the strategy of trying to apply gross filters. Filters would not work, he said, because "Netspace" cannot be controlled that way. The more elaborate the filter, the more elaborate will be the search to find ways around it, and the more powerful these resistances become. He advocated more local and individualized filters that work on the principle of people taking responsibility for their choices. "If you have concerns about your children looking at pornography, the answer is not to eliminate pornography from the world, which will never happen; the answer is to raise them to find it as distasteful as you do".
Pornography may be yesterday's issue, but Barlow's principle holds for a raft of parallel issues today. It's not Barlow's fault we've learned next to nothing of importance about such matters over the past quarter century.
He gave it his best shot, and it could not be expressed any better today than he expressed it way back then: in the beginning.
Rest in peace, John Perry Barlow. You were truly special and your wisdom will be greatly missed.
Lyric to "Cassidy"
I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream
I can tell by the mark he left, you were in his dream
Ah child of countless trees
Ah child of boundless seas
What you are, what you're meant to be
Speaks his name, though you were born to me
Born to me, Cassidy
Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac
I can tell by the way you smile, he is rolling back
Come wash the night-time clean
Come grow the scorched ground green
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me, Cassidy
Quick beats in an icy heart
Catch colt draws a coffin cart
There he goes and now here she starts
Hear her cry
Flight of the seabirds
Scattered like lost words
Wheel to the storm and fly
Faring thee well now
Let your life proceed by its own designs
Nothing to tell now
Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine
Monday, January 22, 2018
New book in our series--congrats again, Matt Farber!
"How are expert educators using games in their classrooms to give students agency, while also teaching twenty-first century skills, like empathy, systems thinking, and design thinking? This question has motivated Matthew Farber’s Game-Based Learning in Action: How an Expert Affinity Group Teaches With Games showcasing how one affinity group of K12 educators—known as "The Tribe"—teaches with games. They are transformational leaders outside the classroom, in communities of practice. They mentor and lead newcomers to game-based learning, as well as advise game developers, academics, and policymakers.
Teachers in "The Tribe" do not teach in isolation—they share, support, and mentor each other in a community of practice. Farber shares his findings about the social practices of these educators. Game-Based Learning in Action details how the classrooms of expert game-based learning teachers function, from how they rollout games to how they assess learning outcomes.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the best practices of expert educators. These teachers use games to provide a shared meaningful experience for students. Games are often the focal point of instruction. Featuring a foreword from James Paul Gee (Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, and Regents’ Professor), this book comments on promises and challenges of game-based learning in twenty-first century classrooms. If you are looking to innovate your classroom with playful and gameful learning practices, then Game-Based Learning in Action is for you!"
Monday, June 26, 2017
Among many unexpected bonuses flying in from left field is this gem of a perspective on writing in which, of course, I have a more than passing interest, thanks to my own line of professional misadventures over the years.
As he begins to recount the process by which he and his two colleagues set out to create their startup pitch to prospective investors, our author take a paragraph out to address his question "What is writing?" With the politically incorrect candor that typifies his book as a whole, Garcia Martinez responds:
"It is me, the author, taking the state inside my mind and, via the gift of language, grafting it onto yours. But man invented language in order to better deceive, not inform. That state I'm transmitting is often a false one, but you judge it not by the depth of its emotion in my mind, but by the beauty and pungency of the thought in yours. Thus the best deceivers are called articulate, as they make listeners and readers fall in love with the thoughts projected into their heads. It's the essential step in getting men to write you large checks, women to takeoff their clothes, and the crowd to read and repeat what you've thought. All with mere words: memes of meaning strung together according to grammar and good taste. Astonishing when you think about it."
Small wonder literacy educators find the challenges so demanding.
Small wonder the theory can often seem so precious.
Small wonder the research can often seem to fall so short.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Vale Brian Street
Happily, he want on to say a lot more and to do a lot more over the next 30 plus years to help establish a robust area of academic interest and activity. It is easy enough to locate and appreciate his written contributions. But many of us were also fortunate to have Brian impact on our lives in more embodied and hands-on ways. He was generous to a fault with his time and energy whenever there was an opportunity for him to provide encouragement and support.
During 1986 I was working on my first literacy book and was searching for works that would support the kind of 'non psychological' line on literacy that I had been fumbling toward since wrestling with Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed. Harvey Graff's wonderful book "The Literacy Myth" gelled with what my gut told me -- that literacy as mere encoding and decoding was hopelessly over-rated and, in many cases, could actually be as much of an impediment as a support in 'making one's way in life'. But how to get beyond encoding and decoding, in ways that augmented Freire's literacy as praxis approach, was proving elusive. That was when I found Brian's book "Literacy in Theory and Practice" in the Auckland University library. (Remember the library?)
It gelled. It absolutely gelled.
This was before there were computers on New Zealand academics' desks. Writing meant banging out text on at best an electric typewriter. No email either .... (well, outside of the Computer Studies department, of course, and -- of course -- they were keeping it to themselves). But bang out words I did; banging away con mucho gusto with some reliable guides to help me along.
When 40 the conceptual chapter on literacy had been banged out I wondered if I'd got my head around what these guides were saying. Forty plus pages were jammed into an A4 envelope and snail mailed to one Dr Brian Street at the University of Sussex. I'd never met him, and he'd surely never met me. I should probably have written a letter first to ask if it would be OK to burden his post box. But book contracts pressed very hard in those days, when it would take maybe 10 days for an airmail envelope to get from the Antipodes to Mother England.
I could make this a long story, as you well know, but to cut it short, guess what happened. A few weeks later an even bulkier envelope arrived in my pigeon hole from the University of Sussex. Brian had returned the original typescript, with comments hand written throughout the text, PLUS a few sheets of his own written thoughts. He basically said "Yep, you've got what I am trying to say and you've used it in a way I believe is sound, and I want to encourage you to keep writing".
Needless to say, I was over the moon. We all have to start somewhere, and where we usually start from is a place that is more or less naive. What we most need is encouragement and some gentle nudges in a productive direction. Brian was simultaneously encouraging and gentle in his nudging.
The book I wrote was the beginning of everything that followed for me in my academic life, and I know that many other people in our shared area of endeavour can say exactly the same thing: without Brian's support and encouragement we would have lived much leaner and more arid academic lives.
Vale, Brian Street. Rest in peace and, while your example and your work live on, we are already missing you and your boundless collegiality and goodwill with deep aches in our hearts.
Saturday, May 06, 2017
A charming and magical evening with Roger McGuinn
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Spanish language edition of of New Literacies and Teacher Learning
El contenido del libro es el siguiente: